The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a request from 20 New York healthcare workers for relief from the state’s vaccine mandate.
The mandate for healthcare workers permits exemptions for medical reasons, but not religious ones.
Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch would have granted the application for relief.
In a 14-page dissent, Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Alito, laid out his opinion that the court’s decision permits the healthcare workers to “suffer an irreparable injury.”
Citing the case of two of the plaintiffs in the case, Justice Gorsuch said that thousands of doctors and nurses, who “have gone to great lengths to serve their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic,” now face the loss of their jobs and the loss of unemployment benefits.
Their reasons for objecting to receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccines are because “their religion teaches them to oppose abortion in any form, and because each of the currently available vaccines has depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing.”
Justice Gorsuch also pointed out that numerous times, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has expressed skepticism towards religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine, citing some of her statements as follows:
- “We left off [the religious exemption] in our regulations intentionally.”
- “How can you believe that God would give a vaccine that would cause you harm? That is not truth. Those are just lies out there on social media.”
- “All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are.”
Originally, New York had planned to offer both medical and religious exemptions to the mandate but changed course following the inauguration of Gov. Hochul.
Under the Supreme Court’s precedents, the government “cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.”
But according to Justice Gorsuch, since New York removed a proposed religious exemption to the mandate, and at the same time gained a new governor who made statements that, “practically [exude] suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs… that alone is sufficient to render the mandate unconstitutional.”
Clearly disappointed with the approach the court has taken, Justice Gorsuch rebuked the court’s decision.
“Today, we do not just fail the applicants. We fail ourselves,” he wrote.
“Six weeks ago, this Court refused relief in a case involving Maine’s healthcare workers. [citation omitted] Today, the Court repeats the mistake by turning away New York’s doctors and nurses. We do all this even though the State’s executive decree clearly interferes with the free exercise of religion—and does so seemingly based on nothing more than fear and anger at those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs.
“We allow the State to insist on the dismissal of thousands of medical workers—the very same individuals New York has depended on and praised for their service on the pandemic’s front lines over the last 21 months. To add insult to injury, we allow the State to deny these individuals unemployment benefits too. One can only hope today’s ruling will not be the final chapter in this grim story. Cases like this one may serve as cautionary tales for those who follow.”
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